Thursday, 25 March 2021

Treasure those Memories … part 7 … To the Lighthouse …

 

When the weather was tempestuous, with the winds from the east, we would be bundled into the car and taken off to that famous lighthouse – as written about by Virginia Woolf …  

First Edition 1927


… Woolf’s parents, shortly after her birth in 1882, started regularly renting a house in St Ives … so even though her story “To the Lighthouse” is set on Skye – one can see how Godrevy would have influenced her thoughts.

 

 

… the drive from Carbis Bay via Lelant village, round the Saltings onto that causeway built in 1825, obviously somewhat updated!, but into Hayle, past the old harbours, through Foundry Square and along the sad road of ribbon development …

 

Godrevy Lighthouse

Then we’d be free of the town and most settlement … the small road along the coast took us up past Gwithian to a cliff clamber (50 metres/ 160 foot) down to the more sheltered beach and rocks below – opposite Godrevy lighthouse …  and over the bay to St Ives.

 

The cliff we'd clamber down
To me … I was quite wary – I remember being anxious about slipping down … but in childhood you get on with things – an adult would carry my youngest brother, the other no doubt hand-held our middle one – along with all the clobber necessary for a day at the beach – mainly lunch and drinks, probably a bucket and spade, towels etc … but little else …

 

The Towans, as the sand dunes to the east of Hayle are known, form a 3 mile protected site – where the habitat of sand dune and grassland is suited to a variety of wildlife and plants, including pyramidal orchids, glow worms, adders, silver-studded blue butterflies and skylarks …

 

 

Silver-studded Blue
… then it was very uncultivated coastal dune-land … now with access points sanitised to fit the late 20th and early 21st century people and National Trust!


 

 

Believe it or not a Bronze Age farm (1700BC to 500BC) is now buried by the Gwithian Towans … it was only found in the early 1800s after the shifting sands released the oratory, built in 490 AD, and said to be one of the oldest Christian buildings in England, along with another in Cornwall.

 

Gwithian sands
The Domesday book holds the records of this part of Cornwall … in 1086 AD there was land for 40 ploughs, 30 villagers, 20 small-holders and 30 serfs are recorded; there was a mill, 300 sheep, 40 wild mares and 21 other animals.

 

 

The institutions recording these details were moved to Penzance in 1771 or thereabouts … following large successive inundations of blown sand.

 

 

SS Nile - wrecked in 1850
Gwithian is the patron saint of good fortune on the sea – sad then that Charles 1’s wardrobe and personal belongings were wrecked together with a crew of sixty.  The wreck occurred on the day of Charles’ death – 30 January, 1649 – not a propitious one for the crew or him.

 

 

We had lots of fun down on the beach … we could paddle, rush at the waves as they crashed through the rocks, jump from one to another … the beach had red shells just beautiful …



Red River's journey

… tinted by mineral deposits from the tin mine – near the upper reaches of the small, only 8 miles long, Red River …


 

View of the mining area
Camborne - Redruth (c 1890)
… it was a necessary source of water for the early mines in the major Camborne/Redruth mineral processing works …

 

 

Gwithian beach is now beloved by surfers, windsurfers, and other beach-sport enthusiasts – also patrolled by lifeguards from Easter to September.

 

 

Th Red River as it enters
Gwithian beach

Though after the War – the area was not encumbered by tourists … especially as the waters around Godrevy are very dangerous.

 

 

The Lighthouse was built in 1858/9 … the island rock marks the Stones reef, which has been a hazard to shipping for centuries.  In 1854 the SS Nile was lost in a storm after striking the reef … with the loss of all hands, the ship and its contents …

 

Surfing off Gwithian
… many requests had been made to build a light on Godrevy … it was only when a local clergyman from Hayle started a petition to Trinity House – the authority for lighthouses – that it was agreed to build the lighthouse.

 

 

Godrevy island marked
top right - at the north-
eastern shore of St Ives bay

“To the Lighthouse” will always resonate with me as Godrevy, where we so often went to play … lots of early memories and now a bit more historical education …

 




Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

32 comments:

Hels said...

What was the inside of the lighthouse like? Unlike any other experiences you had in childhood, I am guessing :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Hels - we never went inside and I'm not sure tours were available. However Virginia Woolf and family went ... her younger brother was excluded - which she brought into the story 'To the Lighthouse' - I regret I haven't read it! So I can't answer your question I'm afraid ... my internet is playing up - so scuppered at the moment to look further: I'll do it anon. The tides round the island and the reef are very ferocious ... thanks for asking ... Hilary

Joanne said...

That cliff looks wicked to climb down. I think I'd be quite hesitant too especially if carrying beach gear. Yikes. However, the scenery and lure of the beach is tremendous, and I'd want some red shells. Funny, I don't think of surfing off the coast of England - I bet that water is choppy and darn cold.

Now I need to read "To the Lighthouse" again. I vaguely remember it.
Cheers!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Hels - there are visits to the island, but not inside the lighthouse - lovely photos if you search Website StIvesBoats.co.uk – and Godrevy Lighthouse Boat Trips …

In the 1899 James Stevens no 10 – which served as a St Ives Lifeboat from 1900 to 1933 … saving 225 lives in those years. The boat has been restored … so the trips are offered in this iconic vessel.

@ Joanne - yes it was slippy slidey for a youngster - but we're still here! It was a beautiful area with no-one else around ... now access is so much easier - there'll be lots more people around.

We went surfing - tummy type! - one year but it was further up the north coast - we aren't the surfing sorts ...

Yes - I think I'd better get her book out of the library - when it all opens up again ...

Thanks so much both of you - all the best - Hilary

Pradeep Nair said...

I can imagine the memories visits to such places, where you spent a lot of time playing as a child, would trigger. Glad to know that finally there is a light. I guess the historical Godrevy lighthouse is a major tourist spot.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
such a fun read yet again, Hilary - but once I saw the words 'Domesday Book' my mind went off on a bit of a tangent with itself as I always marvelled at that great 'census' of history... and how you all down south have just completed another census whilst we in Scotland are holding off till next year... because of You Know What! YAM xx

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Another fascinating and absorbing reminiscence, Hilary. I can well imagine the joy of a childhood visit to the beach with all that it had to offer. It was true then, and is probably equally true now, that a child, sand, water, and a bucket and spade are about the most perfect combination one might imagine. And a sandwich eaten under such conditions becomes a royal feast. As for lighthouses, few are operative any more, having been rendered obsolete by technology, but they are evocative structures and serve to remind us that seafaring was a dangerous occupation.

Rhodesia said...

Another great post with lots of history Looked up the lighthouse and quote "Godrevy Lighthouse is fast becoming our most popular trip as not only do you get to see the lighthouse and hear the commentary about its history but also see the colony of seals that live there." I love seals I used to watch them off Capetown
Hope all is well Cheers Diane

Elephant's Child said...

Your memory banks are packed with riches. I am so grateful that you share them - and include some of the history of these marvellous places. Many, many thanks.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Pradeep – it was a wonderful part of our childhood those early days in west Cornwall. In my early days we just admired the lighthouse and I certainly don’t know if trips were made back in the 1950s.
Now reading Diane’s comment below there are regular trips out of St Ives – to see the coastline, Godrevy and seals, and perhaps dolphins too …

@ Yam – thank you … yes the Domesday Book sends me always off in different directions – and the census of the lands and its people in those days. I was disappointed in the census … but I guess it’s what required … must be just me! Yours will happen – no doubt about that …

@ David – we were lucky as kids – having grandparents in different places – with Cornwall our base, after home. We were fed … presumably basic sandwiches, biscuits, apples and water.
Godrevy now is automated as most lighthouses are …

@ Diane – thanks for the comment and your interest … I thought the ‘visit Godrevy’ website was, like you, a delightful read … with lots of wildlife visits included.
Oddly for some reason I’ve never been out on a seal visit – but I saw lots up on the Skeleton Coast, Namibia – the Cape Fur Seals …

@ EC – well I remember odds and ends – then embellish with the history, which means I learn too … and remember what the place looked like over sixty years ago …

Thanks for visiting to you all – appreciate your comments – and I learn more too … all the best - Hilary

Anabel Marsh said...

I see that lighthouse a lot on Jude’s blog. Interesting background to it!

Liz A. said...

What an amazing spot.

Janie Junebug said...

I didn't know Woolf was writing about an actual place. I didn't do my research. Love your stories of childhood.

Love,
Janie

bazza said...

I read To The Lighthouse MANY years ago. It seemed very avant-garde at the time!
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s cruelly clownish Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Elsie Amata said...

I love lighthouses. We've visited a couple around here, but they were easily accessible. That butterfly you pictured is stunning. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. Have a wonderful weekend!

Jemima Pett said...

Great stuff - very atmospheric :)

Jacqui Murray said...

That was fascinating. I can't believe you safely climbed down that cliff but, that's kids. And I suspect it was worth it.

Annalisa Crawford said...

All the best Cornish beaches are at the bottom of a cliff - it puts people off so there's usually lots of room :-)

Keith's Ramblings said...

Another lovely trip to Cornwall with you Hilary. You clearly have a very good memory! Godrevy lighthouse stands so proud. I'm guessing you've not attempted clambering down Beachy Head to visit your local lighthouse!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Anabel – thanks for pointing me towards Jude’s blog – I had a look … she’s much more professional than I am – but also more 21st century!

@ Liz – thank you …

@ Janie – yes her memories of her childhood visits – it seems she even went out to Godrevy … not something I’ve done.

@ Bazza –it’s something I need to get out of the library to read – and I’m sure it was an unorthodox book – so I too must read it again.

@ Elsie – if one can walk to the lighthouse – that makes it easier … this has some troublesome crags around it. I’m delighted you enjoyed seeing the silver studded-blue butterfly – they are very rare … so their environment needs protecting …

@ Jemima – thank you …

@ Jacqui – it wasn’t quite that one – but quite precipitous as Annalisa remarks below … it keeps the tourists away – yet I’m sure here – they’ve now put a path down … as it’s National Trust land.

@ Annalisa – yes – many inaccessible entrances to beaches … I’ve been down a few in my time. And yes that gives us all a decent amount of room on the beach – which I do prefer … hate the hordes!

@ Keith – well I’m sure memory is embellished a bit … but I think those holidays have stuck – they were always fun.
You’re right I’ve never thought about clambering down Beachy Head – it’s bad enough being at sea level with the chalk falls we’ve always had – dangerous area … yet decades ago they used to work the chalk area …

Thanks so much to you all for visiting … we have a day or two of wet and chill, and then it looks warmer weather arrives and the clocks go back – so we have longer evenings … just wonderful. Stay safe and have peaceful weekends. Hilary

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

Another post I am glad I read

Truedessa said...

This is a great post, I truly enjoyed it. I have a thing for lighthouses, they have a certain allure.

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

Fabulous stuff, Hilary, wonderful detail. You evoke memories of childhood when endless days were spent paddling in the shallows, building networks of canals and castles.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jo-Anne – thank … glad you enjoyed reading it.

@ Truedessa – yes lighthouses are special aren’t they – we have one here situated in the sea at the bottom of the cliffs at Beachy Head … when it was on the cliff it was often obscured by the sea mist – hence the move down to the shoreline …

@ Mike – thank you … there’s lots that tend to trigger other thoughts out of the memory bank and help others' remembrances to appear. I only remember building sandcastles when we came down to Bexhill to see my father’s mother … other than that – just paddling or playing …

Thanks to the three of you – all the best - Hilary

DMS said...

How interesting! Wonderful to see your memories woven with history. I have always loved lighthouses. :)
~Jess

retirementreflections said...

I'm sad that you never got to go inside this lighthouse, Hilary. I am very curious what the interior would be like. Once again, a wonderful post combining incredible history and your early memories. I learn a great deal here!

Vicky Cahyagi said...

Interesting journey and memorable. I followed your blog now. Thx

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jess – great to see you and to know you’re enjoying these memories. I love that lighthouse – and we’ve one here at the bottom of our Beachy Head chalk cliff.

@ Donna – I don’t remember tours back when I was a child, nor do I remember them when I was in my late teens/ early twenties … they’ve probably only recently re-started them I do remember some fishing trips advertised – be we were over on the south coast by then …
Yes – I agree … I’d love to know what the inside looked like – basic in decoration I guess – it hasn’t been occupied for over 80 years …
Delighted you’re another happy reader – thank you …

@Vicky – thank you – I’m sorry I don’t speak Indonesian.

All the best to you three – thanks for being here - Hilary

Mina's Blogs said...

Good memories. Nice to meet you Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thank you Mina - am happy you visited ... all the best - Hilary

Deniz Bevan said...

Thank you for a lovely visit, Hilary! I'd love to go back to Cornwall next time we can visit the UK!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thanks Deniz - I do hope you can get down there sometime when you're next in the UK ... it's a beautiful county - all the best - Hilary